Virtually unnoticed by the media and politicians, large swathes of the NHS are facing deadly cuts. Hospital beds are being scrapped, staff made redundant and potential recruits turned away.
In September several NHS trusts will not give jobs to newly qualified nurses because their budgets are overstretched.
A survey of health workers carried out by Socialist Worker gives a snapshot of the cuts and their impact.
The hospitals under attack include the Royal Free hospital in Hampstead, north London. This is the hospital praised in parliament after its swift response in treating 61 people injured in the 7 July bombings.
Now the hospital will attempt to prevent patients from being admitted to its wards, turning instead to day surgery and treating people at home.
Helen Davies, a social worker and Unison union rep at the hospital reports, “Management at the Royal Free hospital are planning the permanent closure of three wards.
“This will allow the hospital to sell off the Queen Mary’s building. The hospital will have approximately 100 fewer beds.
“The patients most affected by this cut will probably be the elderly. The ‘throughput’ of patients will have to intensify, giving elderly patients much less chance to rehabilitate.
“Although there are no redundancies planned, there will be an intensification of work. It is likely that there will be more bullying and harassment of staff to rapidly clear patients from hospital.
“So much for hailing hospital workers as heroes after the London bombings just a few weeks ago. I think it is really important that there is an enormous public sector contingent on the 24 September Stop the War demonstration.”
The crisis at the Royal Free is just one part of a much wider problem. Making trusts compete with each other and the private sector has been disastrous.
Money spent on the NHS is increasingly ending up in the pockets of private companies.
Frank Dobson MP is a former Labour health secretary. He opposes foundation hospitals, which will enshrine the market in the NHS.
He says, “What we are seeing is a huge increase in the funding to the NHS, but the Royal Free doesn’t have enough money to provide services, largely because billions are being siphoned off to the private sector.
“There is very little the Royal Free can do. Locals should protest about this ridiculous policy of building up the private sector at the expense of NHS patients.”
Another London trust, UCLH, is surviving by ruthless financial concentration on its own future, rather than that of the NHS as a whole.
The UCLH chief executive, Robert Naylor, says, “Hospitals have to take a much more commercial approach. It is now about helping yourself by managing your assets.”
UCLH is funding its expansion with a £62 million government loan.
The cash will be paid back when the hospital sells its site in Mortimer Street, central London — the biggest plot of land near Oxford Street to have gone on sale in the last 20 years.